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In SDNY Cop Ram Doctor Wellner Won Verdict Now Case Against Montefiore Survives

By Matthew Russell Lee

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 23– A doctor facing an NYPD parking ticket and reportedly saying "I'm the hero" back in 2016 resurfaced beginning on Tax Day 2019 in a courtroom in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, as a police brutality jury trial.

Rachel Wellner was at the plaintiff's table and NYPD officer Vega was on the stand, getting asked Didn't you touch near her breast?

Wellner was a breast surgeon at Montefiore Hospital in The Bronx but got fired after what the tabloids called her "cop ram" incident.

  On April 24, 2019 Judge John G. Koeltl presided over summation or closing arguments.

On April 26 when Inner City Press  went to Judge Koeltl's courtroom its door was locked. But it was told that the jury had decided and that it would go up on the docket later in the day. It did not - not Friday, not Saturday April 27. But they did brag to others, that Wellner won, albeit less that the $30 million she requested: $1.2 million.

 Wellner has a case before SDNY Judge Katherine Polk Failla, who held a proceeding on February 25, 2021. Inner City Press covered it. At issue were possible inconsistencies in positions taken, and outcomes, between Judge Koeltl's trial and this one upcoming: Judge Failla said she wanted the parties to "engage with Judge Koeltl's finding that Plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence that the conduct of the defendants in the that matter was a substantial factor in her termination."

Jump cut to March 23, 2022 when Judge Failla against convened the parties. Inner City Press called in; it was said that media is on the line then a party asked, Can we know which media? Inner City Press.

 Judge Failla read out a decision. She denied defendant's motion for summary judgement which was based on judicial estoppel. The position taken, or at least adopted by Judge Koeltl after trial, in the previous litigation wher not entire at odds with Wellner's current suit about disability discrimination. Causation will be an issue for the jury. A motion for discovery sanctions was also denied. The case proceeds. Watch this site.

This case is Wellner, M.D. v. Montefiore Medical Center, 17-cv-3479 (Failla)

Back in the previous litigation Wellner's lawyer showed the jury Officer Davodian's memo book where she wrote that Wellner was going to go after her partner, Vega. He said this is the key document in the case, and compared it to Vega's report to his supervisor Donnelly, said Wellner drove off after she was told she would be arrest. The lawyer asked, Why lie? Why are you lying to your boss? Vega and Davodian sat at the defense's table, where the afternoon before Judge Koeltl's student had sat. Someone will be getting a lesson here, although there is almost no (other) media covering the trial, with an insider trading case across the hall, and the NCAA basketball bribery prosecution up on the 23rd Floor of 500 Pearl Street. But Inner City Press will continue to cover all of it - watch this site, and @SDNYLIVE.

On April 24 Judge Koeltl heard arguments on what his jury charge should be. Wellner's lawyer didn't want the possibility of a $1 nominal damage award to be played up, saying that it makes it too easy for a jury to split the difference and rule for plaintiff but only for one dollar. The City, not surprisingly, disagreed. Judge Koeltl ruminated about a prior case in which a mere 25 cents were awarded, followed by $30,000 in punitive damaged which he ultimately canceled by finding qualified immunity. Here, the City wants to make that argument. And when Judge Koeltl said he had students coming into his / the courtroom at 5 pm, it was the City which offered to move all their binders to make way for the students. Summations are April 24 - watch this site, and @SDNYLIVE.

   Back on April 22 Judge Koeltl gave the jury a break in order to ask the lawyers to prepare arguments for him on whether a failure to immediately correct the statement of an Assistant District Attorney was in fact an "adoptive admission" (he didn't sound convinced) and about tabloid reporting he'd told the jurors to avoid over the weekend now being in evidence and on the TV screen in the courtroom, albeit with a crude blacked-out redaction. We'll have more on this.

  On April 18, Wellner took the stand and by day's end was grilled by the City on when she called the New York Post, and about saying she was led out of the precinct in a chain gang. She said based on the photo the chain gang must have come later. She said the New York Post called her, and she asked them not to publish her name. They've since reported on and excerpted from what they called her "semi-autobiographical novel." The judge has told the jurors not to seek out any information on the case - or presumably the novel. By the end of April 18 her lawyers had used seven hours and 50 minutes; the City had used three hours and 32 minutes. Inner City Press stayed another two hours for a crack sales plea agreement, a pharmacist pleading not guilty to oxy sales, a sentenced man staying out for months taking his wife's narcotics and finally a lawsuit on controversial seizures by New York marshals of out of state debtors' assets. Watch this site.

When Wellner began she made a point of immediately telling the jury that she organized medical missions to Nicaragua and that along with his $450,000 salary at Montefiore she was able to be back with the Latino community she feel in love with. The government / defense did not object. Across the hall an insider trading prosecution got interesting - but Inner City Press will return to the Wellner case.  Back on April 16, the second day of the trial, Vega's partner Nicolett Davodian was on the stand and her deposition and previously filed reports were being used against her. When did she start saying that Vega's knees were swollen? That Wellner had allegedly called all female NYPD officer a derogatory word for lesbian? And the now somewhat famous, "I'm the hero, the cops are not heroes"? There were many I can't recalls. Coming next is the two officers' supervisor, who allegedly reprimanded Davodian for gloating to Wellner upon subsequent full arrest, Are you happy now you crazy f*cking b*tch? Inner City Press will be there - watch this site.

Both the Daily New and the New York Post at the time mocked her for saying she was the hero and the NYPD was not. Her civil complaint recites her voluntary work in Nicaragua and Israel. SDNY Judge John G. Koeltl at the end of questioning on April 15 told the jury to be sure not to check social media (how realistic that is today remains a question).



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